In all fifty states, leaving or fleeing from the scene of an accident – and especially if anyone has been injured in that accident – is considered a serious crime.
You’ll learn what to do if another driver collides with you and then flees the scene.
You’re also about to learn what legal rights an injured hit-and-run victim has in Indiana, and if that victim is you, you’ll find out what steps you must take to be compensated for your injury.
IF YOU’RE INVOLVED IN A TRAFFIC CRASH, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
Indiana law prohibits drivers who are involved in a traffic accident from leaving the scene of the accident.
If you are one of the drivers in a traffic collision in this state – and provided that you are not unconscious or otherwise incapacitated after the accident – here is what you must do:
1. Bring your vehicle to an immediate stop at or as near to the accident scene as possible while obstructing traffic as little as possible.
2. Summon medical attention to the accident scene immediately, and obtain medical treatment at the scene or within the first 24 hours after the collision.
3. If anyone has been injured in the accident, Indiana law requires the drivers involved to call 911 immediately or to ensure that someone else is making the call.
4. A call to 911 should also request the police. Cooperate with the police, but confess nothing and do not admit any fault for the accident. Ask the police how you can obtain a copy of their completed accident report.
5. Unless you have been taken directly to a hospital, stay at the scene until both (or all) of the drivers have exchanged their:
1) names and addresses
2) telephone, driver’s license, and vehicle registration numbers
3) insurance company contact information and policy numbers
6. If your vehicle cannot be driven, make sure that you know where it is being towed. The police will let you know when you can leave the scene.
WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT AT THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT?
One more thing, and this can be important: Take plenty of photos of the crash site and the damages, and if there were eyewitnesses, try to get their names and a way to contact them.
In a personal injury negotiation or trial, photos and eyewitness statements can be persuasive, key pieces of evidence.
WHAT CRIMINAL CHARGES CAN BE FILED FOR LEAVING THE SCENE?
Any driver who leaves the scene of any accident in Indiana can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor: However, if the accident results in:
1. bodily injury, the charge will be a Class A misdemeanor
2. serious bodily injury, or if the defendant has faced a similar charge within the last five years, the charge will be a Level 6 felony
3. a fatality, the charge will be a Level 5 felony
Additionally, any driver who leaves the scene of an accident that results in serious injury or death will face a Level 3 felony charge if that person is intoxicated and in the act of fleeing the accident scene when he or she is apprehended by the police.
Even if a driver crashes into someone’s property or someone’s parked vehicle in Indiana, that driver is required to leave complete contact information in writing if the owner of the damaged property or vehicle cannot be immediately located.
WHY DO PEOPLE FLEE FROM ACCIDENT SCENES?
In most cases, hit-and-run driving is connected to other serious crimes. A driver might flee from the scene of an accident because he or she is:
1. impaired and wants to avoid a charge for operating while intoxicated
2. named in an outstanding arrest warrant
3. carrying illegal drugs or weapons
4. driving a stolen vehicle
5. an uninsured driver
The penalties for a hit-and-run conviction can be severe in this state, but the hard reality is that sometimes a driver flees from the scene of an accident and gets away with it.
IF YOU ARE A HIT-AND-RUN VICTIM, WHAT IS YOUR RECOURSE?
If a hit-and-run driver injures you, leaves the scene, and cannot be found, what can you do about it?
Every Indiana motorist should know that hit-and-run is almost always a possibility when an accident happens.
Until the police are physically on the scene of an accident, stay alert to the possibility that the other driver might “bolt.” Try to get a license plate number and/or vehicle description.
HOW CAN INJURED HIT-AND-RUN VICTIMS BE COMPENSATED?
More than a few hit-and-run drivers get away with it. An injured hit-and-run victim may have to turn to his or her own automobile or health insurance to pay for crash-related medical bills and lost wages.
Indiana law does not compel drivers to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM and UIM) coverage, but any personal injury lawyer in this state will tell you that you really must have that coverage.
Auto insurance companies in Indiana are required to offer UM and UIM coverage when you purchase a policy, and if you turn it down, you must do so in writing.
UM and UIM insurance will cover your medical expenses if you are an injured hit-and-run victim – up to the limit of the policy, which is typically $25,000 in Indiana.
If you have no UM/UIM coverage, you can submit a claim on the basis of your personal injury and collision coverage. What the insurance company can pay you in compensation will be based on the terms, conditions, details, and limits of your policy.
Many health insurance policies will also cover your medical expenses after a hit-and-run accident.
HOW CAN AN EVANSVILLE ACCIDENT ATTORNEY HELP?
If you are the injured victim of a hit-and-run driver in southwestern Indiana, get a medical examination immediately, and then arrange to meet with an experienced Evansville personal injury attorney.
In the best-case scenario, a knowledgeable accident lawyer may be able to help you and the police find the driver who injured you.
A personal injury attorney can help you seek other potential sources of compensation after an accident and handle the negotiations with your insurance company on your behalf.
If you are injured by any negligent driver in Indiana, seeking a personal injury lawyer’s advice is always the smart move, but the complications of a hit-and-run accident make having a good injury attorney’s advice and representation absolutely imperative from the very beginning.
Nothing is a higher priority than your health and your future. If you’ve been injured and the driver who injured you cannot be found, get a good attorney’s advice – immediately.